Happy Holiday (Giving) Season to You!
Yes, we know it's only September (well, technically August at the time of this writing). But if you aren't well into the planning of your year-end appeals, well, you're running a little behind schedule.
FundRaising Success recently did a quick, informal poll of a number of fundraising professionals from across the sector, and here are some of their "off-the-top-of-my-head" tips for ending the year with an uptick in giving. Some chose to focus on ideas specifically for end-of-year efforts, but many took the opportunity to reinforce that good fundraising practices are good fundraising practices are good fundraising practices — no matter what time of year it is.
Nothing formal here, folks … just some musings from seasoned pros. But you're sure to find something that resonates with you and your efforts.
Oh, and … happy holidays!
Sandy Rees, fundraising coach
Here are three ideas that I used with a client a couple of years ago. They needed a big finish to the year, so here's what we did.
1. Encourage year-end giving. Staff created a simple postcard that was sent right after Christmas to everyone on the mailing list reminding them that year-end gifts must be received by Dec. 31 in order to count for the year.
2. Encourage online giving. Since the organization has a website with a "Donate Now" button, we conducted a viral e-mail campaign the last couple of days of the year. On Dec. 29, we sent out an e-mail to all board members, volunteers, staff and donors who we had e-mail addresses for to thank them for their support of the organization and give them the link to the website. We reminded them how important the organization is in changing lives of people in the community and asked them to forward the e-mail on to any friends they think would also support our work. (This is what made it viral.)
3. Pitch stories after Christmas. The week between Christmas and New Year's is usually a slow news week. It's not too hard to get a story on TV or in the paper. We chose a great story and pitched it to the local media.
The combination of these activities resulted in a small flurry of donations during the last week of the year. We saw several first-time donors through our online efforts, one of whom gave a $1,000 gift. We were quite pleased with the outcome, and it met the organization's need for a big finish for the year.
Rick Christ, vice president, Amergent
There are two very different seasons: the spiritual season leading up to Christmas/Hanukkah, and the secular season that begins on Dec. 26 and runs until the ball drops in Times Square. You need to be "in the game" for both seasons with different messages and e-mail aggressively in the last week of the year.
Tim O'Leary, vice president, McPherson Associates
Direct mail: Personalized note cards with a soft ask, using real handwriting or handwritten font, have continued to work well — particularly with mid- level and high-dollar donors. (And they worked for both current and lapsed givers!)
Online: We have found that the week between Christmas and New Year's is a great time for e-mail fundraising. Prospects are usually home and spend some of their time catching up on e-mail. It's one of the best weeks of the year for our online efforts.
Robin Riggs, chief creative officer, LW Robbins
Jeff Johnson, account manager, LW Robbins
1. If an organization has a successful year-end/holiday campaign, test a closed-face outer envelope, First Class outgoing and return postage for $100-plus zero- to 24-month names.
2. Remember to thank donors/members and tell them how important they are to your mission.
3. Use card format, and keep gift asks out of cards by using a separate reply slip.
4. Reinforce "year-end" in messaging even if only on the reply envelope teaser to remind of the Dec. 31 deadline.
5. Test a letter format, and update your donors/members on key events of the year, especially for those they supported.
Holly Ross, executive director, NTEN
I would share one word — integrate! Use your data well to touch your donors in multiple ways, including direct mail, e-mail, text and beyond. Be everywhere to reach your donors when and where they are ready to give.
Ellen Cobb Church, president and CEO, Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co.
1. Don't get lost in the crush of holiday mail. This is the time to make your mail really stand out from the crowd.
2. Remind donors to get their year-end tax donations in before it's too late! Send an e-mail reminding donors of the tax deadline in the last week of December.
Mikaela King, director of online marketing, CDR Fundraising Group
Focus on timing — set a schedule and stick to it, but test tweaks in timing.
Willis Turner, senior copywriter, Huntsinger & Jeffer
1. Think like a poet: [William] Faulkner said novelists are failed short story writers, and short story writers are failed poets. In other words, brevity is power. So be concise, and make sure you have an emotional reason for every word you use.
2. Take responsibility for your actions: Properly targeted donors want to help you. It's your responsibility to make giving a rewarding experience for them!
3. Make readers take responsibility for their actions: Tell them specifically what good things will happen if they give … and what bad things will happen if they don't!
Marc Pitman, fundraising coach
Although school is just starting up and "year-end" feels very far away, don't procrastinate! See if you can finish your direct-mail package this month. That will give you plenty of time to work with your mail house processor.
Jeff Brooks, creative director, TrueSense Marketing
While working on your Christmas/holiday fundraising projects, listen to Bing Crosby's Christmas album. Yes, it's too early, and yes, in just a few weeks you're going to be overdosing on those very songs — but the soupy, old-fashioned sentimentality of those songs feels the way really excellent holiday fundraising should feel.
Jeff Jowdy, president, Lighthouse Counsel
Be genuine. Connect in a sincere way during the year-end holidays in a manner appropriate for your organization. Thank your donors, and inform them of any timely opportunities to make a difference. FS